Bexley's city auditors for the past five decades have joined forces to fight a proposed Bexley city charter change on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Bexley's city auditors for the past five decades have joined forces to fight a proposed Bexley city charter change on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Voters are being asked to abandon the decades-old practice of electing a city auditor in favor of an appointed finance director who would answer directly to the mayor.

"For the past three years, the current Bexley city administration - the mayor and service director - have pushed to eliminate the city auditor position and have the finance director report directly to the mayor," current auditor Gary Qualmann said. "The current administration offered several resolutions to do this, but no member of city council would sponsor the resolution - and for good reason: It's a bad idea not to have an elected, independent city auditor. The administration encouraged the Charter Review Commission to pick up this issue and so it will now come to voters on Nov. 8 as Issue 25."

Qualmann said a no vote on Issue 25 will keep the city auditor position in place, as it has been since the inception of Bexley as a charter city.

"The administration and some on the Charter Review Commission try to make the point that a private business has the finance person report directly to the owner, so the city finance director should similarly report directly to the mayor," Qualmann said.

"The problem with this analogy is that the business owner has his own money at risk and can do as he chooses with his financial person. For city governments, it is not the mayor's or the administration's money that is at risk. It is the public's money and the administration should not have direct control over the city finances without the proper, independently monitored, checks and balances in place."

Qualmann contends that internal controls and proper checks and balances are enhanced by having an independent, elected city auditor, who would not allow funds to be spent or financial analyses to be prepared without proper vetting and the full and complete knowledge of city council.

Qualmann and former city auditors Larry Heiser, Rich Levin and Jack Hornberger issued a joint statement opposing Issue 25.

"As former city auditors, each of us has seen many questionable practices or situations arise during our tenure which required a strong, independent hand to be resolved properly," the statement read. "Some situations may have even required more formal investigations to be certain that funds were being spent in accordance with proper practices. Do we really think that a finance director reporting directly to a mayor would not be tempted to go along with whatever the administration wants to do? The finance director must report to the auditor so that the position can freely challenge any questionable or inappropriate activities."

They said all statutory cities in Ohio have independent, elected auditors because "it is the best way to control finances in a governmental setting. Likewise, most charter cities also have independent, elected auditors - so there is no 'movement' away from elected auditors as has been suggested by the administration."

They noted the idea of an appointed auditor is not a new one.

"Current and prior administrations we have worked with over the past five decades would all think it's a great idea to get rid of the auditor position because the auditor makes an administration more accountable - which is exactly why we need to keep an auditor."

They also contended that the founders of Bexley knew that having an elected, independent auditor "would provide the proper checks and balances for our Bexley city government - and the city's record over many decades has proven them to be correct."

Current Bexley finance director Beecher Hale said he also favors retaining the elected auditor's position.

"During my 14 years of experience as finance director, I have always worked closely with the administration and city council, meeting with them frequently to provide the needed financial information for effective decisions needed to run the city," he said. "When you ask someone at least weekly if they need any financial information and they continually answer 'no,' it's difficult to understand why they would later say they 'need their own finance director.'

"Situations have arisen from time to time in which it has been extremely beneficial to have the independence of judgment afforded by answering directly to an independent elected auditor. Issues have ranged from determining proper accounting for revenue and expenditures, enforcing time off and benefit policies, to ensuring only proper expenditures were made.

"If I had been answering directly to the mayor, my actions would have been greatly complicated and I would not have been nearly as effective."